New York

21 May 2021

Deputy Secretary-General's remarks at G7 Climate and Environment Ministerial Meeting [as delivered]

Dear COP President Designate Alok Sharma, 

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my former office in Nigeria, George Eustice, it’s great to see you. 

Excellencies, Colleagues,

I thank the incoming UK COP Presidency and of course the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for extending an invitation to us. We really are delighted to be here as United Nations. In particular you’ll know that all our offices around the world are listening to this as we really seek to convene these transitions that are so important for the COP outcomes. 

Today we are coming together in critical times. I’ve just come out of the G20 health meeting, very closely related to what is happening in climate and environment. And as we heard just now His Royal Highness, talked about resetting our relationship with the planet and this is very important. 

2021 will be a make-or-break year in the global effort to restore that balance, tackle the climate emergency and get ahead of the pollution crisis.  

It is a year of great possibility and hope, but only if we really pick up the pace. 

And so we really do not have a moment to lose. And your role is crucial to uniting these intertwined agendas, of nature, of the climate emergency and the pollution crisis. 

The G7 holds great sway to ensure that 2021 is a pivotal year for people and planet.  The responses that we have now are critical to the quality of that recovery. 

Sustained action, starting now, is needed to get us back on track and secure the well-being of people and of our planet. 

I am reminded every day that people, societies, institutions, governments, businesses, thrive in a world in which multilateralism works, and there is trust in international cooperation.  

We need strong political support to agree an ambitious new framework to protect biodiversity at COP15 in October.  

But we also need decisive progress in shaping the political package for COP26 in November on the three key pillars of the Paris Agreement – mitigation, adaptation and of course finance.  

On mitigation, keeping the 1.5-degree goal within reach remains a priority. We need to grow the net-zero coalition of countries beyond the 73 per cent of global emissions currently covered by these pledges to at least 90 per cent by COP26; and to see all members of the G20 join the coalition.  

We are running out of time to bend the emissions curve and cut emissions by 45 per cent globally by 2030 and that’s from 2010 levels. This means all main emitters must deliver enhanced NDCs, Nationally Determined Contributions, this year with concrete and credible targets that we can follow through to 2030. Important investments in the targets we set for 2030 will determine the outcome of credibility of the 2050 targets. 

And, as the Secretary-General has been asking, it means no new coal starting now, phasing out coal in OECD countries by 2030 and in the rest of the world by 2040. 

We have seen some really encouraging announcements on the NDCs over the last months, including from G7 members, and we are still expecting more ambitious NDCs from all main emitters by COP26 and I’d like to thank Alok for his leadership on this and his voice in amplifying the urgency behind which people have to get. 

Despite positive signs on reducing emissions, we remain, however, deeply concerned about the public finance gap and the lack of concrete support for adaptation. 

Ensuring that developing countries have access to public finance now to fight the triple crises of COVID-19, debt, and climate is absolutely necessary - especially for our least developed, our small islands and other climate vulnerable countries.  

Achieving the $100 billion goal remains a high priority for the United Nations. We are still not there: according to the latest numbers, we are about US$20 billion short. So it’s not much to cover and it is so important in signaling that we will then get to the trillions that are needed and it won’t come from public finance, they it will come from a number of constituencies but we’ve got to take that first step and that’s not been take as of yet. 

I know that as ministers of climate, energy and environment, you have been on the frontline of climate action and I trust you are already convinced. You are the biggest advocates we have to amplify the urgency that we need to put forward for the G7 to act. 

I now need you to convince your colleagues Ministers of Finance and Treasury and we all sit around the table and sometimes, the environment voice is a little small. I remember when we first took to the cabinet that we had the first domestic green bond. Everybody was asking me, what were you doing in that space? That’s not where environment ministers go. Well, absolutely we do if it is a serious transition that we’re talking about on energy, on the connectivity, on food system. 

The G7 Summit will be the make-or-break moment for progress on finance, those signals will be incredibly important. We need G7 leaders, with other developed countries following suit, to announce enhanced climate finance commitments for the period of 2021-2025, explicitly indicating the share of public climate finance that they pledge.   

Greater predictability and improved quality of climate finance in the form of increased grants are vital to support the needs of developing countries, and to maintain trust in the process.  

G7 members, as shareholders of Multilateral and Public Development Banks, also need to ensure that the banks are providing developing countries with the necessary breathing space to survive the current crisis, invest in the Sustainable Development Goals, and support short-term actions in developing countries for a low-carbon, inclusive, climate-resilient development. 

Colleagues, Excellencies, 

I think we need to be clear: a radical transformation of the entire financial system is essential. Companies and governments must account for nature and reflect natural capital on balance sheets. We need to “shift the trillions” to invest in a just transition to inclusive, low carbon and sustainable development. This starts with shifting fossil fuel subsidies to renewable energy which will help pave the way from Cornwall to the G20 Summit in October. 

Meeting the $100 billion goal is, however, the political signal we need to show that finance has started to flow towards meeting meet the 2030 targets, and investing in the resilient net zero economy. It is also to attract private finance at the necessary scale and in all markets, not only in emerging ones. 

Meeting this goal will allow finance to flow to adaptation and resilience, and this will help us get the green jobs, and in the protection of people and communities impacted by weather extremes year on year that can wipe out development gains overnight. 

Excellencies, 

The Secretary-General has been explicit in urging a breakthrough on adaptation.  

He has spoken against what we called the “false dichotomy” between mitigation and adaptation finance.  

It is essential that developed countries provide both.  

Adaptation finance to developing countries is a mere 21 per cent of climate finance. This represented USD $16.8 billion in 2018. Actual annual adaptation costs in the developing world alone are estimated at about USD $70 billion, and these could rise to USD $300 billion by 2030.    

The fact is that we need to see an increase of climate finance to get to at least 50 per cent allocated to adaptation – easily accessible for SIDS and LDCs.  

I know that where there is political will, there is certainly a way, and things get done. Where we were in January to where we are today. The political muscle that Alok has brought to the table is no mean feat and we continue to gain momentum going to COP26. So it is possible.  

G7 Ministers of energy and environment, we count on you to lead the way in setting the necessary policies for a low-carbon, resilient, inclusive recovery.   

Your leadership is, again, crucial to ensure that developing countries can access public finance to develop recovery packages that do open pathways to meeting the SDGs and are in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement. I just want to mention the scale at which this has to happen. We really need to work on the technical assistance that countries will require to prepare those pipelines. 

This will expand opportunity, reduce the stark inequalities between and within countries, respect the boundaries of our planet through concrete nature-positive investments and actions, and ensure all benefit for the dividends of sustainable development.   

In times of crisis, we need multilateralism to work well, and fast. It is being taxed right now. To ensure equitable access to vaccines we’ve seen we are strained, to enable a sustainable and inclusive recovery we’re still in the response mode we are not yet in the recovery; and ensure that most importantly our youth do not lose hope in the future or trust in leadership and institutions. 

We have five months to deliver a new ambitious, inclusive Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, with clear targets and means of implementation at COP15. 

 And we have six months to agree on a balanced and ambitious package on mitigation, adaptation and finance at COP26.  

So let’s demonstrate to the world, and especially to our youth, that multilateralism remains the best route to work together and provide ambitious, concrete and equitable solutions to climate, biodiversity and pollution. 

I am confident we can do it. 

Thank you for inviting me to this very important event.